South Korea has recently completed a test launch of its homegrown submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), according to local media. The news came only a day before North Korea displayed its new SLBM at a military parade.
The South Korean military launched the weapon at the Agency for Defense Development’s Anheung test site and has scheduled final underwater tests for March this year. Development of the country’s SLBM will reportedly take place with three test phases: one in-ground and two underwater tests.
A 3,000-ton Dosan Ahn Changho-class submarine is expected to deploy the 500-kilometer (311 mile) range missile after the tests have been concluded. It will be equipped with six vertical launching tubes capable of firing SLBMs.
“Related agencies wrapped up ejection tests of the missile on the ground last year. They are to move on to the next stage of conducting underwater test launches,” a military source told Yonhap News Agency.
In 2020, the South Korean military had reportedly conducted SLBM tests “several times,” both on land and underwater.
Response to North Korean Threat
Seoul’s defense ministry considered the short-range, solid-fueled Hyeonmoo-2B ballistic missiles as “advanced high-power assets” that will be instrumental in “[supporting] peace on the Korean Peninsula.” Its maximum range is reported to be about 500 kilometers (311 miles).
The country is also forecast to build 4,000-ton submarines with speculation that nuclear-powered engines will be used to power them.
The advancement of the homegrown missile is seen as a response to North Korea’s acceleration of its SLBM development.
North Korea’s SLBM
This week, North Korea rolled out its SLBMs on transporter erector launchers, along with a new short-range ballistic missile, during a military parade in Kim Il-Sung Square. Experts say that the new missile appears to be designed to fly longer, and some speculate they will be able to carry nuclear warheads.
The parade was held only two days after the country conducted its rare party congress that lasted for eight days. The event featured rows of marching troops, tanks, and rocket launchers.
North Korea’s state news agency KCNA detailed the event. “The world’s most powerful weapon, submarine-launch ballistic missiles, entered the square one after another, powerfully demonstrating the might of the revolutionary armed forces,” the outlet said.
Critics claim the display of military might was not intended to be a “provocation.” Nonetheless, it was a “worrying sign of Pyongyang’s priorities.”
South Korea currently operates nine 1,200-ton and nine 1,800-ton submarines while North Korea is believed to have 70 submarines, mostly unfit for offensive military operations. North Korea is thought to be working on a new 3,000-ton submarine, capable of carrying SLBMs.